I have heard in certain songs the usage of a diminished chord in a major tonality which I think is not constructed over the seventh degree nor over the second degree.

Moreover, in the two examples at which I have found this resource, I have noticed that it is used with the same chord-sequence: I - i°? - I.

The two examples I mention are these ones:

How and why does this technique work? Does it have any particular name?

  • 3
    Possibly you're under the misapprehension that chords to a pice must be diatonic? Since there are in reality only three diminished chords, and all can and will fit into any key, it's not unusual. Instead of stacking a M3 and a m3, or m3 and M3, it merely stacks two m3s. In these cases from the tonic root.
    – Tim
    Jul 15, 2019 at 12:33

2 Answers 2


This technique is called a "common tone diminished chord." As the name implies, this is a diminished chord that shares note ("common tone") with the chord preceding it and the chord after it. Common tone diminished chords are used purely as a chromatic embellishment of the harmony; as opposed to traditional diminished chords that act as a dominant and can be used to modulate to different keys.

  • 2
    that's it! www2.siba.fi/muste1/index.php?id=90&la=en Jul 15, 2019 at 20:30
  • Ok, so it doesn't have any function (dominant, leading, etc.)? How would this be written with roman numerals, this way? I - i° - I?
    – Quaerendo
    Jul 16, 2019 at 18:46
  • @Quaerendo Yes, I - i° - I would be a good way to analyze the progression in your example. In terms of function, I would say it is an example of non-functional harmony; it is meant to elaborate on the tonic, but it doesn't pull the harmony towards the dominant.
    – Peter
    Jul 17, 2019 at 17:37

Besides the common tone diminished, there is a type of chord consisting of a fully diminished chord viio built over a tonic pedal. In Spanish we have a label for those, acorde de sobretonica, I did not find the translation in English for this label. The examples in this page are clear http://cpms-armoniadecuarto.blogspot.com/2009/02/acordes-de-sobretonica.html

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